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Edamame – green soy beans

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD

On a recent road trip, we shared a bowl of Edamame with family at a restaurant – I didn’t tell my husband what it was, but waited to see if he would try something new. The brave, intrepid food explorer came out, and it want long till he was sucking green beans out of their shell like a pro. On the return trip home at the Sparks Costco, I found a large tray of Edamame for us to snack on while we drove through dinner time to our remote campsite in the Mountains of Northern California. Finally, after admitting how much he liked them, he asked just what are these anyhow. The time had come to confess I had slipped him a not necessarily so good food – soy.

Yes as you have already surmised by the title of this article Edamame is green soybeans, they have appeared in health food stores, Asian eateries, and can be found in a multitude of ways. Dry roasted, raw, steamed/chilled, or fresh edamame pods are in a variety of packages enticing consumers into thinking this sweet tasting bean is good for you.

Kaayla Daniel Ph.D., The Naughty Nutritionist, writes in her article What’s Edamame? And Other Questions about Green Vegetable Soybeans that historian William Shurtleff of the Soyfoods Center in Lafayette, CA, knows of no early references to green vegetable soybeans in China. Further, she writes:

“ An herbal guide from 1406 (Ming Dynasty) indicates the whole pods of young soybeans could be eaten or ground for use with flour, but it recommended such uses only during times of famine.  A Materia Medica from 1620  recommends edamame, but only for the medicinal purpose of killing “bad or evil chi.”  By 1929, however, edamame was definitely on some menus. William Morse of the USDA reported on a field trip to China that “the market is virtually flooded with bundles of plants with full-grown pods, the seeds of which are also full grown.  The pods are boiled in salt water and the beans eaten from the pods.”

Dr. Daniel also disputes the claims by industry that Asians have consumed soy for 5,000 or even 10,000 years. She says that digging into anthropology and history texts absolutely does not support this common claim that seems to have become regarded as fact in some health circles. “The oldest soyfoods, miso and tofu date back only about 2,500 years. Contrary to popular belief, soy was not eaten as food 5,000 years ago, but it was highly regarded for its role in crop rotation.”

The use of soy for crop rotation makes perfect sense as it is a nitrogen-fixing plant, For those who are gardeners or farmers you understand the value of rotating different plants through an area in order to recover the soil from monoculture planting practices.

GMO Danger: Most edamame on the market in the United States is sourced from genetically modified soybeans. GMOs are not labeled currently in North America.Beware that most edamame served in Japanese restaurants and featured on salad bars in North America is GMO.

GMO soy is a Hormone Disrupter


  • A study of GMOs reported in the June 2013 issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Organic Systems involved research conducted over 22.7 weeks using 168 newly weaned pigs in a commercial U.S. piggery. One group of 84 pigs ate a diet that incorporated genetically modified (GMO) soy and corn, and the other group of 84 pigs ate an equivalent non-GMO diet. The pigs that ate the genetically modified soy and corn had a higher rate of severe stomach inflammation – 32 percent of GMO-fed pigs compared to 12 percent of non-GMO-fed pigs. The inflammation was worse in GMO-fed males compared to non-GMO fed males by a factor of 4.0, and GMO-fed females compared to non-GMO-fed females by a factor of 2.2.


  • Scientists at the Russian Academy of Sciences reported between 2005 and 2006 that female rats fed GMO soy produced excessive numbers of severely stunted pups with more than half of the litter dying within three weeks, and the surviving pups completely sterile.


  • Russian research from 2010 found that hamsters fed GMO soy for two years (over three generations) developed sterility. In addition, the pups that did get born suffered from slow growth and a high mortality rate.


  • And lastly, as a soy food, this is food to be avoided by those with or post breast and prostate cancer.


So while the Edamame was fun for a couple times, it won’t become part of our diet, and I do not recommend it for you either.

To your good health and GMO-Free local foods.



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